Indonesia quake kills at least 1, tsunami alert lifted | world | Hindustan Times
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Indonesia quake kills at least 1, tsunami alert lifted

A powerful earthquake struck an area off Indonesia's northern Sulawesi early on Monday, killing at least one man and damaging scores of homes.

world Updated: Nov 17, 2008 08:40 IST

A powerful earthquake struck an area off Indonesia's northern Sulawesi early on Monday, killing at least one man and damaging scores of homes, television stations said.

Indonesia briefly issued a tsunami warning which was lifted later, the meteorological office said.

The magnitude 7.5 quake was at a depth of 21 km, with its epicentre 136 km (84 miles) northwest of the provincial capital of Gorontalo, the US Geological Survey said.

A series of further weaker aftershocks struck in the same area of the Celebes Sea bordering the southern Philippines.

About 100 houses were badly damaged in the Buol area of central Sulawesi, with at least 20 collapsing, Metro TV reported. It said at least one man had died in Gorontalo city after being hit by a collapsed building.

Officials said they had not yet received information of casualties or damage.

"We still have not received any formal report from the provincial government, but the possibility is there could be some damage or casualties," said an official at the Indonesian meteorological agency.

In more remote parts of Indonesia with sketchy communications it often takes time for assessments of damage or casualties to arrive.

Residents had fled to higher ground in the area when the quake struck in the area, according to Elshinta radio.

Schools were also closed in some areas of Sulawesi, the radio station reported.

The latest aftershock came at 2233 GMT, measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, the meteorological agency said.

A telephone operator in Gorontalo said the quake could be felt strongly in the city.

"It felt quite big and caused panic," the operator told Reuters, adding that the telephone network had been disrupted.

In the town of Poso in central Sulawesi, residents rushed out of their houses and patients were evacuated from a hospital, Metro TV reported.

"We are not expecting anything dangerous but geologists are still monitoring the possible impact," said an official at the Philippine Institute of Vulcanology and Seismology, the country's main earthquake watching agency.

Indonesia launched a new hi-tech system on Tuesday aimed at detecting a potential tsunami and providing faster alerts in a region battered by frequent earthquakes, though experts say large parts of the country are still not covered and the system will not be fully operational until 2010.

The sprawling archipelago of some 17,000 islands, which lies in the seismically-active "Pacific Ring of Fire", was hit by a devastating tsunami four years ago that left an estimated 170,000 people dead or missing in Aceh province.